Andrew Miller QC (Chair)
II lost my son Fabian in a drug-related accident in January 2015. Fabian was only 19 years old.
His death was totally unexpected and was one of those tragic accidents of youth that too many parents have to deal with.
It took a few months before I discovered The Compassionate Friends and I started attending TCF meetings about five months after Fabian’s death. I very quickly realised and appreciated the incredible help and comfort that I was able to get from other bereaved parents. Being involved with TCF brought a new form of familiarity and normality in what had quickly become a very unfamiliar and abnormal world.
Shortly thereafter I became involved in fundraising for the TCF concert in London in October 2015. At the end of 2015, following my attendance at the National Gathering, I was co-opted as a Trustee onto the TCF Board. I became an elected Trustee in 2016, re-elected in 2019. Through TCF, I also offer support to parents facing an inquest and co-facilitate a support group for bereaved parents and siblings in North West London.
I am honoured to be a trustee, and now Chair, of such an amazing charity that has provided me and so many others with so much help and care and which shines a light of hope that we can all carry on our own individual journey. I am committed to spreading the knowledge and work of TCF to both the bereaved and non-bereaved.
Sue Hughes (Vice Chair)
I lost my oldest son Joe, aged 11, in 2008 from a completely unexpected asthma attack.
The first couple of years after this happened were the bleakest and most terrifying time that I could have ever imagined. Then I found The Compassionate Friends, and by chatting on their wonderful Forum and attending various TCF events, I found the support and comfort I needed. The friends I made through the organisation held my hand through the journey ahead, and are still with me today.
I became a trustee in December 2012 and am also a local contact, running a support group in South Bucks and organising retreat weekends for those parents in the early months and years of loss.
I work from home as a science journalist on a medical website, and I have taken on the public relations role for TCF.
I have two other sons – Jack and Ben.
James, my only child, died in a road accident in August 2014. He was 22.
As I searched for a way to acclimatise to a world without my son in it, I met The Compassionate Friends and quickly formed close and supportive friendships. I was initially asked to help organise a fund raising event for TCF and I was appointed a trustee and Company Secretary in November 2015.
Soon after James died, The James Ahern Foundation was created "Enabling the pursuit of passion". We raise funds and provide grants to help young people achieve their goals - a legacy for a compassionate young man who dedicated so much of his time to helping others.
Working for these two organisations is a rewarding way to honour my son's amazing, but short, life.
I started to write what have become known as "The Jamie Letters". These have become popular, even with people who didn't know James. I talk about him and find ways to include him in every new experience. I believe that we need to dispel the traditional approach to grief and to change common attitudes to bereavement.
Add a busy practice as a barrister and a spot of knitting and playing poker and you have a small picture of the woman who is first, last and foremost, proud to be Jamie's mum.
On New Year’s Day 2016 we lost our son Adam to a brain tumour aged 27. It was just a few weeks before his wedding day. He had two children who were then aged 3 years and 8 months. The days, months, years that followed has brought us a world of darkness.
In modern life there is much training and coaching available but when it comes to the really difficult areas there is an absence of help. TCF is one exception. Wendy has been part of the TCF family for three years and received great support through weekend retreats, local groups, telephone calls and via Facebook. Both of us have also made many good friends within TCF. I would like to repay this as best I can by contributing to the Trustee Board.
My background includes teaching, military, consulting actuary and charity work - Chair for 7 years with the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, Chair for 4 years with Bucks Advanced Riders and Drivers. I have fundraised for NSPCC, Brain Tumour Research, Uphill Ski Club of GB and the England Rugby Charity. I enjoy walking our dog, cycling, hill walking and meals out with friends.
Dr Margaret Brearley
Our elder son, Joshua, died suddenly in 2002 aged 20, from SADS. Finding The Compassionate Friends brought gradual solace; we were not alone in our devastating anguish, but part of a huge extended family, united through shared grief. I still attend a wonderful TCF group, help organise the Gathering, and became a Trustee in 2014.
Because I know that friendships with other bereaved parents bring mutual comfort, build our resilience, and create hope, I am passionate about TCF. I also love occasionally to gather many bereaved parents for informal food-filled days in our home.
My background is academic, originally as mediaevalist, later working on Jewish-Christian relations, Roma/Gypsies, Holocaust, genocide; most recently, on therapies for torture survivors, and Richard Wagner’s ‘musical religion’.
Voluntary work has included creating the Kinmos day centre for mentally ill people in Birmingham, running a large ladies’ group supporting vulnerable women and children in Israel, building a school for dalit children in India, and supporting the local hospice and soup kitchen. Marriage to a busy musical surgeon leaves little time for hobbies other than cooking, reading, music and friendship.
George Burn (Company Secretary)
I lost my brother, Billy, in 2015, when he died aged 44 after losing a battle with an aggressive form of cancer. He and I were always close, and seeing him die early in life, and seeing the impact on my mother, my sister-in-law, my nieces and the broader family, has been both incredibly sad and incredibly important as a defining life experience. The support of various organisations, including TCF, has played a crucial role in helping us deal with our grief and come to terms with Billy’s absence. I would love to contribute to one of those organisations, in order to help others who have to go through the horrible experience of seeing a loved child or sibling die. I
As a lawyer with 20 years of experience, I have substantial technical legal ability that could be of use to TCF. I also have experience of working as a governor of two schools, one as chair of the governing body, and have experience of volunteering in roles for other organisations, I have knowledge that I think could also be of use to TCF.The mission of TCF is to support bereaved parents and other close relatives; having seen the value of support organisations for those dealing with the pain occasioned by grief, that is a mission to which I would very much like to contribute. Trustee is a position of responsibility, with significant moral and legal obligations; I believe I have skills and experience that would enable me to meet that responsibility and in doing so help TCF and those that it supports.
My elder daughter Nikki, died from suicide in 1987 when she was just 19. TCF was a lifeline. I went on a weekend for Survivors of Suicide and found that I was not alone – it was such a relief to be able to talk to others who had been through the same experience as me. I became involved in various TCF activities including taking part in radio interviews and breakfast TV.
Then in 2003 my son Robin, died from encephalitis aged 32 in Singapore where he was teaching. Because I was now grieving for a child of mine a second time I was able to recognise the stages of grief I was going through and, as a writer of adult and children’s fiction, I was able to express my grief in a bereavement book ‘Don’t Let Them Tell You How to Grieve’ which is now used by CRUSE Bereavement Care.
Since 2013 I have been on the National Gathering Committee and also the editor of “Compassion”, which I enjoy very much, especially the contact with contributors which it affords me.
My big brother and best friend Adrian (Aidy) died suddenly in May 2016, a few days before his 38th birthday. He was married with a 5-year old son.
He was my only sibling, and with our father having passed away in 2007, my mother and nephew became my primary concern. I initially contacted TCF to get support for my mother, but discovering that they also offered help for bereaved siblings (SIBBS) was a game-changer. I no longer felt so alone in my grief. In 2018 I started volunteering for TCF by helping to edit and draft the supportive leaflets they offer.
I have over 15 years’ experience in communications, working in press and marketing for institutions such as the British Museum, and Arts Council England, and more recently as Head of Membership at the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn.
I became a member of TCF in 2015 after the death of our son Tom. He was 22 and his death was accidental, unexpected and unbearable.
We were introduced to TCF and although we found our first meeting very difficult, we felt a mutual understanding. The support and we have gained from TCF has been invaluable and I believe that, without TCF, we would be in a much darker place now. It gave us hope when we had none.
Our experiences have led me to realise that there is a significant lack of relevant bereavement support from health care professionals for bereaved families and it seems to us that TCF provides this. I would like to put something back into the organisation that has helped us and hope that my skills and experience might be of some value.
I have worked at Director level in the pharmaceutical industry for many years and have run my own successful medical communications business for 13 years where I specialise in strategic direction, communications and event management. This requires the ability to strike early rapport, foster relationships and reach a mutual understanding with people. Running a small business also means that I get involved in a wide range of tasks from delivering board room presentations to laying out meeting room materials and I pride myself on “getting stuck in” to do whatever is necessary to get a job done.
My daughter Anna died on May 1st 2015. She was married and had two young children aged three and six. She had suffered long periods of depression and became psychotic before she died. Her sudden and totally unexpected death has devastated all the family including her three brothers and sister. Anna had numerous friends and was so loved by everyone; it has been impossible for us to understand why she took her life.
I have had a long career in Education, teaching, and then training governors for local authorities across London. I have experience as a trustee of a number of charities and organisations as well as being a governor of three primary schools and chair of a Nursery School Governing Body. I chair the Campaign for State Education, the National Early Childhood Forum and London Play which campaigns for and provides play opportunities for London’s children.
Being involved with Compassionate Friends has been a life saver and enabled me to find friends and solace with others who have experienced such incredible loss. I am honoured to have been elected as a trustee of such an amazing organisation which daily provides support of all kinds to so many people and families.
On the evening of 25 April 2013, my beloved son, Duncan Andrew Phillips came home from work as usual, had tea with his wife and two small sons, and left the house to join friends for a game of football. He did not return. Unbeknown to both himself and us, his family, Duncan’s heart muscle was diseased; he had inherited (apparently) a condition known as Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. His heart muscle had hardened and the cells of the muscle were disorganised. The exertion of sport was too much for it to cope with that evening and Duncan’s heart simply stopped beating.
The subsequent horror and despair at Duncan’s sudden death was, and remains, indescribable. I do not remember how I coped with day to day living for the first year, except to say that neighbours, friends and colleagues at work were tremendously supportive in the way that they approached us (my husband, myself and our daughter), invited us to meals and allowed us to cry.
In the Spring of 2015, Derek (my husband) and I attended a musical event at Wotton House in Buckinghamshire. There we met Dr Margaret Brearley who immediately gathered us in and tended our broken hearts with TCF understanding and sympathy. The relationship between TCF, Derek and I has been and continues to be one of emotional support, many willing and sympathetic listening ears, tenderness and compassion.
My working knowledge of accounting for charities, statutory reporting and awareness of what it means to be a charity trustee has been gained over more than 20 years. I welcome the opportunity of using these skills and experience in the furtherance of TCF aims and objectives which I heartily believe are so valuable in sharing the pain of and easing the burden for bereaved parents.
My darling youngest daughter Kishori never allowed her asthma or her allergies to limit her enthusiasm for life and passion for living. In 2016 while travelling in Colombia she experienced an anaphylactic reaction to something she had eaten and died without access to the medical care which could have saved her.
As a practising medic & psychiatrist to boot this has been a terrible trauma to survive. I will always be grateful to TCF which has and still does provide me with models of compassionate, practical and loving support. My new tribe have helped me on my journey alongside other bereaved parents and siblings, through a weekend retreat and supportive group meetings. I am so glad I can now give something back, as trustee.
I am blessed to be mother to 2 other children, Anmika and Jashan.
I was co-opted as Trustee in 2013 and am responsible for advising on and monitoring TCF’s finances. I graduated from the London School of Economics in 1984 and qualified as an actuary in 1987. From then until 1999 I was a partner in actuarial firms - first in Clay and Partners and then Lane Clark and Peacock.
In 1999 I left the actuarial world and joined UBS's fund management arm and ultimately headed its UK institutional side, which managed assets for pension funds and charities.
I retired from full time work in 2010 and have worked for a number of charities since then. I am not a bereaved parent but became involved with TCF when I saw the impact of the work the organisation does.
I became aware of TCF after the death of my daughter, Emily, in 2011. My family has benefited from the charity very much, and I am glad of the opportunity to put something back in.
I have been an accountant for 26 years in a small, high-street practice, where I advise individuals from small and medium-sized businesses on accounting and tax compliance. I also play in a semi-professional 6-piece party band which performs in pubs and at parties. It is less lucrative than accountancy, but marginally more enjoyable. At various times, I have been the treasurer for three nursery schools and the Barnet Citizens Advice Bureau, I have served on the Board of Muswell Hill Synagogue, and I currently volunteer as a magistrate. I hope that my experience will equip me to be a useful board member of TCF.
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